Tasting Notes: Fruits of Their Labor

How a Mattawa apple-farming family made wine work.<br>

Category: Tasting Notes

 

When apple prices plummeted about 10 years ago, Mike and Karen Wade wondered how they could diversify enough to keep their third-generation, Wenatchee-based fruit-growing and -packing company afloat and continue to be competitive. Suddenly faced with cheap imported apples being dumped onto the U.S. market-which was already sagging from the 1980s scare surrounding Alar, a chemical sprayed on apples to regulate growth and enhance color-Columbia Fruit Packers needed another venture to blend into the business.

That business venture turned out to be a small patch of land smack-dab in the middle of their own orchards. We decided to pull out a Red Delicious orchard on 15 acres in Mattawa and plant grapes in 1998, says Mike, who had been experimenting with home wine making. We didn't tell many people at the time because we didn't know where this might go. But along the way, a confluence of things happened all at once, and we were in the right place at the right time.

The Wades were lucky, for instance, that Mattawa turned out to be a stellar location for grape growing and that their vineyard-dubbed RiverBend Vineyard-produced young fruit that was mouth-filling from the start for their new winery, Fielding Hills. Their first vintage, the 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, garnered 91 points from Wine Spectator, an unusual feat for a fledgling winery.

As a family rooted in agriculture, the Wades found the transition to grape growing relatively easy. Farming is farming, says Karen, but with vineyards, we had to make adjustments. For instance, orchards need pruning to promote growth, and pruning in vineyards is done in order to limit growth on the vine. Farmers usually want to get the biggest yields possible from their planted acres, but with vineyards, yields are deliberately reduced to increase quality-a practice the Wades had to get used to. We found a few mentors to help us along the way-some very generous people in this business showed us that great wine can be made on a small scale, says Karen.
 
One of those mentors was Charlie Hoppes, owner/winemaker of Fidelitas Winery on Red Mountain and consultant to a number of Washington wineries. Before they started making wine, the Wades sold their first grapes to Hoppes, and in return, the affable winemaker helped Mike with his own wines. Initially, Mike would call Hoppes with dozens of questions-at first regarding the basics, such as the differences between types of oak barrels, and eventually drilling down to the minutiae of the wine-making process, such as how different yeasts work. It is the little things, the little details that you don't know about when you first get started making wine, says Hoppes. Mike was pretty green, but he is a sharp guy. There isn't one big thing that will make your wines more special than others-it's the attention to the little details. Mike is a detail guy who gets it. 

If little details can create great wines, Mike is a natural, from knowing when to harvest his fruit to having the patience to wait the 18 months required for the wine to age in barrels and reach its optimum quality. Wines from the latest vintage, 2004, including the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and RiverBend Red, received high marks from Wine Spectator-all 90 points and above. The couple also makes small amounts of Cabernet Franc, also highly rated, and is considering the production of Malbec.

Overall, I intentionally minimize what I do in the vineyard, says Mike. We are blessed with great grapes, so I try to stay out of the way of what Mother Nature can do.

Being a wine minimalist makes sense for a guy who is president of a global fruit-packing operation and a winery, and a father of three. The Wades have three daughters-20, 16 and 13-and must juggle busy family life with their successful wine operation. When it comes to math, my 13-year-old knows her multiplication tables for twe Christina Kelly http://seattlemag.com/files/image/main/large/07jun14.gif Washington Wines
620 June 2007 2007-05-17 19:42:15.000 Super Sonic Plastic is fantastic, but vinyl is final.
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That could bethe slogan of Sonic Boom's new General Store, located in the former FremontNews space next-door to the original Sonic Boom Records. Up front resembles aChubby & Tubby for the cool kids, with electronic and MP3 accessories,Japanese toys, tees, sugary treats and other hip essentials. In back, the feelis more akin to an '80s-style record store, with bins of used, new and rarealbums in every genre alongside portable, self-powered turntables (about $160).Lining the shelves are pop culture books and glossy fashion, lifestyle andmusic publications, including 33-1/3, a quirky series coveringindividual albums, such as Neil Young's Harvest and The Pixies' Doolittle,written by passionate music critics ($10.95/book). You might even catch anoccasional reading or acoustic performance by the next big thing–check theirWeb site for details. Lei Ann Shiramizu http://seattlemag.com/files/image/main/large/07jun12.jpg Shopping + Fashion Articles
796 May 2007 2007-05-11 15:01:06.000 Dining Guide: Insider Jim Drohman and Joanne Herron from Café Presse. Category: Eat + Drink Articles

 


New openings:
At last, Jim Drohman and Joanne Herron will open their much anticipated follow-up to Le Pichet, Café Presse (Capitol Hill; 1117 12th Ave.; cafepresseseattle.com). At press time, Drohman and Herron were anticipating a late May or June launch. Located in Seattle's hottest foodie corridor near Seattle U (think Lark, Licorous and La Spiga), Café Presse will be more casual and more of a bar than Pichet, but, adds Herron, a bar that happens to serve very good food. The menu will touch on the top hits of the bistro repertoire, including omelets, salads and Drohman's famed don't-call-it-French-onion-soup gratin Lyonnais. Herron hopes that Café Presse will appeal to a broad swath of the Seattle population and will court the neighborhood's students with its all-day/all-night menu. You can get a steak-frites at 8 a.m. and you can get one at 1 a.m. Mmmm, nothing like going to bed on a bellyful of steak.

Transformations:
After shutting its doors last December, 26brix (207 W Main, Walla Walla; 509.526.4075; twentysixbrix.com), the much-ballyhooed Walla Walla restaurant of Mike Davis and family, has reopened with the same name, but with a serious retooling of atmosphere and average dinner tab. The old Brix set out to be the valley's version of The French Laundry, Thomas Keller's fine-dining chapel in Napa. But $40 entrées and formal service found little traction with valley locals. After digging up a couple of angel investors to help him reopen, a chastened Davis has made the menu considerably more affordable and the atmosphere more relaxed and family friendly. We need to make friends in Walla Walla, conceded Davis, who says that in the three months of the tourist season the restaurant had no problem with bookings, but the long off-season took a toll on the restaurant's proceeds. Here's hoping Walla Walla residents take to his new offerings, including a nightly three-course menu for $26.26 and an à la carte, bistro-style menu featuring steamed mussels with merguez and cilantro, Walla Walla onion rings with rémoulade, and entrées like rib eye, roast chicken and barbecued duck. In order to pay bills, the restaurant had to liquidate its enviable wine cellar, but Davis says sommelier Robert Ames is gradually building it up again. One thing we never had a problem with was selling wine.

Shelton's fourth-generation, family-owned Taylor Shellfish Farms (taylorshellfishfarms.com) continues to grow, having purchased in February the famed oyster company Fanny Bay Oysters, Ltd., British Columbia's largest shellfish producer, which grows its briny beauties north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The purchase will increase Taylor's production-from owned and leased shellfish farms-to approximately 50 million oysters a year. Somebody pass the mignonette.

On the bookshelves:
May is a good month for literary Seattle foodies: Patricia Wells, our go-to guide for all things French, will be here promoting her new book, Vegetable Harvest, and Marco Pierre White, the famed British hothead chef turned restaurateur, will be representing his memoir, The Devil in the Kitchen. Both authors will take part in Cooks and Books events; Wells will be at Boat Street Cafe and White at Union. See kimricketts.com for details.

In the markets:
Don't forget that May is prime salmon season. Look for wild salmon, including marbled king, Yukon River and yes, Copper River, at your local market and on restaurant menus. Bite your tongue and pay the price (to a reputable vendor), because salmon this good doesn't stay for long. Pair it with splendid May produce: green garlic, fava beans, artichokes and pea vines. Heather Fassio http://seattlemag.com/files/image/main/large/07may8.jpg Reviews
111 May 2007 2007-05-07 10:43:56.000 Tasting Notes: Second to None Fine wineries around the Northwest boast treasures beyond their best labels, finds Master Sommelier Shayn Bjornholm. Category: Tasting Notes

 

Second. In a world where success is valued above all and luxury is the everyday humdrum pursued by the masses, “second” has become a dirty word. Not “The Best”?!  Then it must not be up to snuff. When it comes to wine, the Northwest is home to premium wineries that now go head to head with established estates in the Rolls-Royce regions of Napa Valley, Bordeaux and Burgundy. And often overlooked are the amazing bottles these superstars produce in the form of what we in the wine world call “second labels.”

Second labels are wines made by world-class wineries that, for a number of reasons, do not measure up to the quality, price or style standards of their premier wines and reputations. Often these wines will be sold under the premier winery’s name in hopes of inspiring trust and allegiance, as with the successful Quilceda Creek Red Wine. A newer trend is to create a totally separate winery, either for new premium-quality wine projects (as when Pepper Bridge created “sister” winery Amavi, in part, as a platform for winemaker Jean-François Pellet to craft premium-quality Syrah), or as a way to find a market for their own less expensive wines. The latter method was a learning experience for the Robert Mondavi brand when it briefly robbed its world-class Reserve line of its potency by putting the highly lauded Mondavi name on its lesser-quality Woodbridge line. Either way, these are wines made by the finest winemakers from quality fruit.

When it works, the second label is a win-win for winemakers and wine lovers. When a producer plants vineyards that need at least 10 harvests to develop super-premium-quality grapes, a second label serves as an outlet for that fruit before it reaches its peak. These wines also help groom new customers, bringing in “entry level” wine drinkers willing to pay the $15–$25 that these wines usually cost. And since second-label wines will be sold a year earlier than the reserve labels, which require additional cellar age for depth and balance, they provide a more immediate cash flow. Also, if they find an audience, second labels can serve as an introduction to the higher-end wines, creating brand loyalty for when that drinker can afford to step up to Big-Bottle Land.

The wine lover, on the other hand, is given wine at a fantastic value. Since these winemakers can make world-class wines, they also know how to coax quality out of younger, lesser fruit. Premium ageable reserve wines often require years of additional aging once purchased, but the second label is often structured to drink immediately. Also, the term “reserve” implies a greater use of oak as a sign of quality; for those who don’t like such caramelized, oaky flavors, second labels are much more about the fresh taste of the grape. Today, with so many choices, the times of second labels being dumping grounds for the plonk barrels are long gone—nothing but the best for the money is put into bottle.

As with any level of wine, there is a range of quality—from great producers to not-so-great producers. And your own tastes should dictate what you drink. But if you try a bottle of one of my five picks, I guarantee it will lead to, well, a second, second bottle.

Shayn’s Picks

2005 Wine by Joe Pinot Gris (Dobbes Family Estate), Oregon $12
This is a porch pounder, people! Joe Dobbes makes this a clean, light and refreshing Pinot Gris. Lots of green melon, candied lime rind and honeysuckle flowers with a surprisingly long finish. Pairs with: salt-and-pepper watermelon salad.

2006 O’Reilly’s Pinot Noir (Owen Roe), Willamette Valley, Oregon, $18
David O’Reilly scores with this fun label and delicious silk bomb. Served slightly chilled, this wine is full of http://seattlemag.com/files/image/main/large/07may16.jpg Washington Wines
714 2007-02-20 14:37:07.000 Featured Shop of September METRO's yogini-at-large fills us in on the art of practicing yoga in style. Read the article in its entirety in METRO's premiere issue.  Category: Shopping + Fashion Articles

 

 

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